STORRS — The U.S. Senate candidates struggled to focus on the issues at their second televised debate as each scolded the other for the personal attacks regarding their personal finances and accused the other of not talking about the issues.
But for all the bluster about sticking to the issues, the two never really got to the issues in their second hour long debate.
Republican Linda McMahon told the panelists they need to ask Democrat Chris Murphy about his attendance record in Congress and “special loan agreement.”
“I think you asked Mrs. McMahon if she was going to stop the character assaults,” Chris Murphy said as the crowd at the University of Connecticut’s Jorgensen Theater burst into applause. “That was just more of them,” Murphy said playing to the audience.
“C’mon let’s talk about what people really want us to talk about, and that’s the issues,” Murphy said.
McMahon countered that there have been plenty of negative attacks coming from the Murphy campaign.
She said the Hartford Courant published an article about how one of Murphy’s television ads misrepresents her position on Social Security and Medicare. The ad is paid for by a Super PAC, not Murphy’s campaign.
“Congressman Murphy you need to be honest with the people of Connecticut,” McMahon said. “Come clean with them about your loan, come clean with them about your attendance record.”
Murphy alleged McMahon was being hypocritical because she waited 36 years to pay back her creditors from a 1976 bankruptcy.
“Well, I did eventually pay,” McMahon countered. “But I did it with my money — you got a special loan from the bank. You got a special loan.”
The comment received cheers from McMahon supporters.
“Linda McMahon is addicted to personal attacks,” Murphy said. It’s a line he repeated in the post-debate spin room.
McMahon said Murphy could easily put the argument to rest by releasing his mortgage documents. She added that only a congressman could be absent from 75 percent of his public hearings and still want a raise to work in the U.S. Senate.
“I just think public integrity is an issue and only in Washington could you miss 75 percent of your job, get paid $170,000 a year, and you want to get a promotion,“ McMahon said.
So where do they stand on the issues of the Bush tax cuts and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan?
On taxes, Murphy said he would make the Bush tax cuts for the middle class permanent, but allow them to expire for upper income levels.
“I just don’t think this country can afford to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy,” Murphy said.
McMahon would extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone, including the upper income levels.
“I would vote to continue the Bush- which is now the Obama tax plan,” McMahon said. “Except that I would decrease taxes on the middle class. I’d eliminate the 25 percent bracket. The rest of the tax law that’s in place I would continue.”
If she had to make a choice about extending only the Bush tax cuts, McMahon said she wouldn’t increase taxes on anyone.
“I don’t think now is the time to raise taxes on anyone,” she reiterated.
When it comes to the ongoing fight against the insurgency in Afghanistan, McMahon and Murphy differ.
Murphy, who ran for Congress for the first time in 2006 when the Iraq War was a deciding factor in many elections, said he’s a believer in wrapping up the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan.
“I think we should bring our men and women home,” Murphy said.
McMahon disagreed with the creation of a timetable for withdrawal set by President Barack Obama, but was okay with bringing the troops home.
Asked to explain the difference, McMahon said she doesn’t believe Obama should have set a timeframe.
“I don’t agree that the President of the United States should have announce a timeframe of withdrawal when you’re in a conflict, but since he’s said it let’s go ahead and move our troops out,” McMahon said.
“I just want to make sure we get them out no later than that timetable,” McMahon said.
Murphy said he’s in favor of a multilateral approach anytime the U.S. is deciding to get into a conflict.
“I don’t think the United States should be involved in another country unless a vital U.S. interest is at stake,” McMahon said.
She said a “strong foreign policy” is important for the state of Connecticut where the economy relies heavily on defense spending.
She said Murphy has voted twice against defense spending that brought funding back to the state for jet engines, two nuclear submarines per year, and tens of thousands of jobs.
Murphy said he’s proud to be part of a delegation which was able to secure the engine for the joint strike fighter and the expansion of the submarine contract, but he doesn’t support an open-ended commitment to spending $2 billion a week overseas in Afghanistan.
“I rather see us spend our money here in America,“ Murphy said.